1970s Memories IV

The fourth in this series of photographs, this scene is also at the old Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad station (now the  the Louisiana Art and Science Museum) located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

For many years an old former Illinois Central 0-6-0 steam locomotive was parked on display at the north end of the station platform.  One afternoon while studying the locomotive I captured this view of the steamer’s driving wheels and valve gear.

IC 0-6-0 Valve Gear

1970s Memories III

I used to occasionally drive over to the west bank of the Mississippi River across from Baton Rouge to do a little railfanning.  Of course I would always check out Plaquemine as part of my route.  The T&P (now UP) runs right through the center of town and with an abundance of interesting structures on either side of the tracks, there was always something of interest to photograph while waiting around for a train to rumble by.

Here’s one such subject that I caught one afternoon during the lull.

Plaquemine, Louisiana

1970s Memories II

The second in this series of photographs, this scene is at the old Yazoo and Mississippi Valley Railroad station located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana right next to the Mississippi River levee.  The Y&MV was a subsidiary of the Illinois Central Railroad until merged into the IC in the late 1940s.  After the demise of rail passenger service to Baton Rouge, the building changed ownership and became the Louisiana Art and Science Museum.

This is the scene on the north end of the depot under the covered platform.  A glimpse of the “new” Mississippi River bridge can be seen in the background.

LASM Building in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

 

1970s Memories

I thought I’d start posting a few photos taken back in the 1970s.  I’ll start today with this one taken at the former General Services Administration (GSA) supply depot that was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  This was a significant supply depot for many years.  But after use of this depot began to wind down, a large chunk of it was eventually turned over to the BREC park commission in Baton Rouge.  This photo shows one of the rail served warehouses that were in the facility.  A few still survive to this day.

Old warehouse at the former GSA depot in Baton Rouge, La.

 

WWII Air, Sea & Land Festival

This past weekend Ron Findley and I attended the WWII Air, Sea & Land Festival down in New Orleans.  This is the fourth time this event has been there (it was given a new name this year), and it is an absolutely fabulous show. The primary forces behind the event are the Commemorative Air Force and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

I know this is supposed to be a blog about railroading, but I confess to also being an aviation addict, at least when it pertains to military aircraft.  And WWII vintage aircraft are dear to my heart.  Therefore, I’ve decided to relax the “rules” to accommodate this post, and show a few highlights from this year’s show.  OK, a “few” are actually 28 photos, but that was culled from the 861 images I shot during the course of the day.  I wish I could post them all.

Saturday morning was windy and had a heavy overcast, with a very low ceiling.  Fortunately, by late morning a cold front moved into the area and pushed the clouds away.  The day was chilly and very windy, with a strong north wind for the remainder of the day.  But now with sunshine and an unlimited ceiling, the aircraft took flight.  In years past, the flying aspect of the show was pretty much limited to take-offs and landings, with aircraft mostly used to take (paying) passengers for a short spin around town.  But this year that all changed.  All of the bombers and most of the fighters and trainers took to the air.  And a number of them did splendid aerobatic maneuvers to the delight of the crowds.  This year’s show was hands down the best thus far!  I’m already looking forward to next year.

I’ll start with a few shots taken of the ground parade that was also new this year.  This was basically a “pass in review” of the cars, jeeps, trucks, personnel carriers and even tanks.  That was followed by various groups and organizations (some rather zany), all in good fun.

Let’s start!

Pass_in_Review -1

At right is an M4A3 Sherman tank as it passed a parked B-29 bomber.  At left, a half-track is approaching.

Pass_in_Review-2

And here is that White M-3 half-track approaching my position.  A Dodge WC-54 ambulance is seen in the distance.

Pass_in_Review-3

A 3/4 ton truck and a CCKW deuce-and-a-half follow.

Pass_in_Review-4

And a light M3A1 Stuart tank follows up at the rear.

Pass_in_Review-5

Here’s the Sherman and the deuce-and-a-half parked back in the display area.  There were quite a few other vehicles that I haven’t shown . . . these were just a sampling.

Let’s look at some aircraft highlights.  The good news is that there was a lot of flying, and some pretty slick maneuvers going on.  The bad news is that the sun was on the far side of the field.  So naturally, this made photography quite difficult.  Unfortunately most photos tend to be in shadows or silhouetted.  But even the silhouettes are cool!  So let’s get to it.

USMC_PBJ_Bomber

First we have a USMC PBJ, the Devil Dog, which is really a variant of a B-25 bomber.  This was used for many things, but strafing was it’s specialty.  Note the array of eight guns poking out of this things nose.  And if that isn’t enough, there are also four .50 caliber machine guns mounted on the side of the fuselage (two on each side) just behind the pilot.  Can you imagine the sheer volume of lead being rained down upon the target?!

B-25_Bomber

And here is the classic North American B-25J Mitchell bomber, the Yellow Rose.  Apparently these large aircraft are fairly agile seeing the way these pilots were flying them, and considering how they were used during the war beyond their intended use as bombers.

B-17_Bomber

Here’s a close-up of the nose art on a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress bomber, the Texas Raiders.  She even has a bomb load inside,  complete with anti-Hitler graffiti.

B-17_Bomber_in_Flight

And here she is in flight.  The markings on the plane indicate it’s from the 533rd Squadron, 381st Bombardment Group of the 8th Air Force.

B-29_Bomber

The Boeing B-29A Superfortress, Fifi is coming in for a landing.  In the foreground is the former control tower of the art-deco styled terminal building at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport.  Fifi is one of only two B-29 bombers still in flying condition.

P-40_Fighter

Here is a Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk fighter.  This one is in the Army Air Force livery, rather than the commonly seen Flying Tigers motif.

TBM_Avenger

And here’s a beautifully restored TBM Avenger torpedo bomber.  This airplane is surprisingly large!  It has a crew of three.  The TBM is a Grumman TBF produced by General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division under license.

YAK-9_Fighter

Something a little different: a Russian Yakovlev YAK-9 fighter.  This thing is rather small, but appears to be fast and agile.  It was the most produced Soviet fighter of all time.

P-51_Fighter-1

Now what would an air show be without a P-51?  Many consider the North American P-51D Mustang to be the most beautiful aircraft produced during WWII.  Here’s Gunfighter coming in for a strafing run.

P-51_Fighter-2

Gunfighter buzzes by the B-29 Fifi as she taxis out for a takeoff.

P-51_Fighter-3

The Gunfighter put on quite a show, complete with loops, wing-overs, rolls, and more!  This airplane is very fast and agile, and it always impresses the crowd.

FM-1_Fighter-1

Someone has sounded an alert!  Here’s an FM-2 Wildcat springing into action.  No, I didn’t tilt the camera for effect.  With this airplane’s ability to launch from aircraft carriers, coupled with the stiff headwind that day, the thing literally leaped into the air within moments of the pilot opening the throttle.  Grumman Aircraft was focused on the development of the new F6F fighter, so they licensed production of the F4F Wildcat to General Motors’ Eastern Aircraft Division, hence the designation of FM-1, then the FM-2.

Zero_Fighter-1

And here’s what caused the scramble, three Japanese Zeros!  Looks like the one on the left has just been hit.

Zero Fighter-2

And it looks like this Zero has been wounded as it was strafing the field where this B-17 is trying to taxi out to the runway.

FM-2_Fighter-2

Well, the Wildcat is that Zero’s problem.  He’s hot on his tail.  I was surprised by the performance of the Wildcat.  It was one of the hardest aircraft to photograph due to it’s small size, it’s speed and it’s maneuvering.

FM-2_Fighter-3

With the Zero dispatched, the Wildcat can celebrate….

FM-2_Fighter-4

….with a victory roll.

FM-2_Fighter-5

FM-2_Fighter-6

FM-2_Fighter-7

FM-2_Fighter-8

And in the meantime:

Zero_Fighter-3

The third Zero is frantically trying to avoid the hail of lead about to come his way!  These aircraft are Japanese Zero replicas created from AT-6 Texans.  They’ve been featured in several movies and in scores of airshows.

Actually, there were many more aircraft flying than what I’ve shown here.  And there were a couple dozen aircraft on display that didn’t fly at all on Saturday.  I wish I had room to show them all.  There was even a (surprise) low-level flyover by a B-52 bomber!

The title of the post indicates air, sea and land.  You’ve seen the air and the land, but what about the sea?  The WWII museum recently completed restoration of a Navy PT boat, which was on display in the adjacent yacht harbor.  Unfortunately we just didn’t have time to make it over there to check out the boat.  However, since it is local to New Orleans, we can go visit it on another day, and without the pressure of trying to see too much in one day.  Indeed, the biggest problem I’ve had in viewing the displays downtown at the museum has been the overwhelming abundance of displays.  It’s impossible to see everything there in reasonable detail within a single day.

And just to show that I haven’t forgotten all about railroads, here’s a Norfolk Southern freight:

NS_Freight

The NS mainline passes right by the airport, and this was one of 5 or 6 trains that passed during the afternoon.  So there, I’ve managed to bring this post back to where it belongs.

-Jack

Saturday Railfanning

Well Saturday was railfanning day . . . both for model railroads, and for the real deal. I headed out to the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders’ open house up in Jackson, Louisiana this morning. When I arrived there were already a couple of live steam locomotives fired up on the outside loop, with another on a siding taking on water and fuel. Here’s a shot of a rather unusual double header consisting of two 0-4-0 switchers 🙂

Live Steam in Jackson, LA

After watching the live steam operation for awhile, I headed into both of the layout buildings to see what was going on in them. Most of the layouts were buzzing with activity. Finally I headed out to the covered pavilion used as an open-air shop. At one time there was a narrow gauge “amusement” railroad (the Old Hickory Railroad) operating on the property. It’s been quite a few years since it operated, with the rolling stock now parked in and near the pavilion. The biggest reason was the condition of the steam locomotive . . . it was simply worn out. Manufactured by Crown Metal Products, this steamer was propane powered. It was completely dismantled several years ago and is supposed to be undergoing restoration. However, the only things that have been on the property for quite some time are the locomotive’s frame and suspension, it’s cab, and tender.

OHRR Loco Frame and Tender

Well surprise! The boiler is back from being repaired and re-certified. It was sitting outside still lashed to the truck trailer on which it was shipped.

OHRR Steam Loco Boiler

There still are no signs of the drivers and trucks; I’m assuming they are still out somewhere being overhauled.

I left Jackson a bit after noon and headed east down Highway 10 until reaching US 51 by the Canadian National mainline. I grabbed a quick lunch in Amite, then raced south down to Hammond, hoping to catch Amtrak train number 58 headed up to Chicago. As I pulled up to the depot, I noticed the northbound signal was indicating a meet at the siding north of the depot. Great! Here’s 58 as she pulled out from the depot:

Amtrak #58 - Hammond, LA

And here is the southbound CN freight that patiently waited for 58 to pass. It’s headed down to New Orleans.

CN Southbound Freight - Hammond, LA

While at the depot I noticed three young fellows taking videos of the passing trains. We engaged in conversation after the action, where I learned that they were high school students, and they had developed a liking for trains, and were taking every chance they could to get trackside. Later the father of one of the boys joined us. They were from the Watson area, not very far from my home. The boys had talked him into taking them to Hammond for a day of railfanning. With all the talk these days about how the hobby is just for “old folks”, it was refreshing to see three young guys bubbling with enthusiasm about train watching.

I finally capped off my day at home by watching the (recorded) football game between LSU and #10 Auburn. Wow, Auburn was walking all over LSU during the first quarter, with a 20-0 score. But the LSU Tigers dug in their heels defensively, and the offense finally came to life, ultimately defeating Auburn 27-23! What a game!

-Jack

Some Area Fall Happenings

Being pre-occupied with finishing up my home restoration (as a result of the great 2016 flood) coupled with a lack of progress on my model railroad, has resulted in very few posts over this past year. I’ve mentioned before that I have decided not to do any reconstruction in the train building until the house proper is complete. If I started the work out back, I would never finish the work still needed in the house (too much of a diversion). Drying out the place and remediation has been long completed . . . I just haven’t started the process of rebuilding. But I do hope to finally get out there sometime this winter to begin the work.

In the meantime there are several activities, some railroad and one aviation oriented, that I hope to attend. I think it’s time for me to get out of the house more in order to keep my sanity!

First up: The Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders up in Jackson, Louisiana will be holding their Trainfest on Saturday, October 14th. Things get rolling around 10 am. If you haven’t been to one of these open houses, you really should give it a shot. The club is home to quite a few operating layouts. They cover all of the popular scales (Z, N, HO, S and O) with their indoor layouts. And there is an outdoor G scale layout, along with a separate live steam loop that sees trains running in various scales (G and Fn3 mostly). There is also an open pavilion that is used to shelter and restore a variety of full size equipment. I recently posted a couple photos from there including a neat little Plymouth critter, and a grape harvesting machine. There are quite a few other interesting pieces of machinery under and near the shelter.

A week later (Saturday, August 21st) the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS will be getting together for a day of railfanning over in Hammond, Louisiana. They will be meeting next to the Amtrak depot located downtown on the CN railroad mainline. Folks usually start gathering around 9 am or so, and you’re welcome to stay until you just can’t take it anymore. 🙂 Everyone is invited to join in, you don’t have to be a chapter member.

The following week there will be an aviation event down in New Orleans. The WWII Air, Sea & Land Festival will be held at the Lakefront Airport on October 27-29. This is the fourth time this event has been there (it was given a new name this year), and it is an absolutely fabulous show. The primary forces behind the event are the Commemorative Air Force and the National WWII Museum in New Orleans. There will be a significant number of WWII aircraft both on display and flying, along with several ground vehicles ranging from jeeps to tanks. This year will also feature their newly restored PT boat. I don’t have details of exactly where the boat will be displayed, but I assume it will be in the adjacent harbor. Here’s another link if you’d like more information:  The National WWII Museum.

And finally, the Louisiana Chapter of the Train Collectors Association (TCA) will be holding their fall train show on Saturday, November 4th over in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. The event will be at the First Baptist Church gym located on E. Pine Street. Hours will be 9 am until 3 pm. This show coincides with the Ponchatoula Trade Days and Craft Fair which, while not railroad related, can be an interesting adjunct to the day.

Whew, the next month will be busy! Hope to see some of you at one (or more) of these events.

-Jack

The 5th Anniversary

My, how time flies! Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Louisiana Central layout construction. Unfortunately tragedy struck the Louisiana Central less than a month after the fourth anniversary post was made. For those of you who are new to reading this blog, my city suffered a horrific flood last August 13th. My home and the layout building took on about 15″ of flood waters. The good news is that the layout itself suffered only wet feet. However the restoration of the building (flooring, drywall, cabinets, etc.) is on hold until my house restoration is complete (hopefully within these next few weeks).

Since the layout and building have been out of service for the past year (the building is serving as a warehouse for items salvaged from the house), there is little to report with regards to layout construction. A few weeks before the flood I posted my latest (and last) progress report on the layout, the advancement of the mainline west out of Oneida. The only mainline track left to be done is the last stretch into Monterey, and the track in the turnback curve back in the alcove (this is the mainline between Oneida and Whitcomb). I had just finished casting the bridge abutments needed there, and was about to cast the wing walls.  The fourth anniversary installment gives more detail on the remaining work.

I’ve spent time surveying the layout progress these past few months. I’ve laid enough trackage and done enough wiring now to have a good feel for the time required for those tasks. Once layout construction resumes, I should be able to completely finish laying track (including the yards and service areas) within two or three months. Add a month for the wiring, and another month or so to install all the fascia and control panels, and the layout will be ready for shakedown operations. Maybe I’ll have a big announcement on the sixth anniversary!

Fortunately I was able to attend a half dozen railfan and model railroad events last winter and this spring. In just a few weeks (August 5th) the Southeastern Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS will be having their annual slide show at the Denham Springs library. It’s a lightly attended event, but I enjoy the company of those folks, and there are always some interesting slides to view.  You don’t have to be a member to attend, so I encourage those of you local to this area to come join the fun.

I’ll post my progress on the layout building restoration once it gets underway. Hopefully that will be soon.

-Jack

Critters and Such

Back in late March Ron Findley and I took a trip up to Jackson, Louisiana and spent the morning with the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders, also home of the Old Hickory Railroad. While there, we headed over to the large “train shed” on the property, a large covered area where 1:1 railroad equipment, and an assortment of other odds and ends are stored and worked on. I thought I’d post a few photos of some items that caught my attention.

First up is a recently restored Plymouth “critter” that was parked just outside of the shed. I don’t have any information or background on this piece, but plan to ask questions on our next visit. She looks like she just rolled out of the factory.OHRR_Plymouth-1

OHRR_Plymouth-2

Here are a few other Plymouths quietly awaiting their turn at restoration. Seeing that chassis without a cab and hood (look closely behind the two locos in the foreground) was very interesting, as it allowed one to inspect and figure out the internal workings of the machine.OHRR_Plymouth-3

Below is a contraption that I’d never seen before. From a distance I initially thought it was a straddle lumber carrier. But once I walked over to it, I realized this was a beast of an entirely different nature. I’m speculating that it is some kind of harvesting machine. If any of you folks can shed some light on it, please feel free to comment.OHRR_C-R_Tractor-1

OHRR_C-R_Tractor-2

OHRR_C-R_Tractor-3

A side note: my home restoration from last year’s flood is on the final lap . . . hopefully I’ll be moving back in within a few weeks. Much work remains, especially on the exterior, but at least I’ll be home again!

-Jack

Donald M. Menard

I learned yesterday of the passing of an old friend, Don Menard.  Don was 92 years of age.

I met Don many years ago when he joined the Baton Rouge Model Railroad Club.  We quickly became friends as he became involved in the wiring aspects of the club layout (which I was heavily into).  Don founded and owned an electronics parts and equipment business, Menard Electronics, which catered mostly to the Petro-Chem industry in this area, so he graciously provided our electrical/electronic supply needs from his business.

Eventually both of us moved on from the BRMRC, but later joined in with the group of operators at the late Lou Schultz’s layout over in Covington.  Don always rode over there with a few other friends and me.  He was a prolific operator, and he loved running manifest freights, and especially fast passenger trains.  He probably moved more trains over the line during a given session than any other operator, despite his being the oldest operator in the crowd!

Don was a WWII veteran.  He was the radio operator with a B-17 crew flying out of England.  On one fateful mission his plane was shot down and he parachuted to earth.  Unfortunately he was taken prisoner by the Germans and spent the remainder of the war in a POW camp.  He shared many stories with me about his time in the U.S. Army Air Forces.  My dad was also a former airman during WWII, having been a gunner on a B-24, so between his stories and Don’s, I always had a great first-hand recounting of the 8th Air Force air war in Europe.  Don was active in a POW group, as well as a group of folks from his old bomb group.

He also loved flying and he held a private pilots license.  I was fortunate to fly with him a number of times.  I would get a call early on a Saturday morning and it would be Don.  “Want to go to Cook’s today?”, he’d ask.  Cook’s was a hobby shop up in Shreveport (a couple hundred miles from Baton Rouge).  “Sure”, I would reply.  He would direct me to meet him over at the airport, and off we’d go!  Upon arrival at the airport in Shreveport, we’d take a taxi to Cook’s, spend an hour or so browsing and purchasing, then head back to the airport and home.  One thing I learned about pilots and flying: any excuse to go somewhere in the plane is good enough.

Both Don and his wife’s health had been declining in recent years, so his children moved them to Houston so they could spend their remaining years near them in a senior’s home.

Don was one of the good guys down in this area, and I don’t know anybody that didn’t like Don.  I know he will be missed by all that knew him.  I have missed him greatly ever since he moved away to Houston.

Rest in peace, my good friend.

-Jack